IS leader blows up self, family as US attacks Syria hideout
ATMEH, Syria (AP) — The leader of the Islamic State group blew himself up along with members of his family as American forces raided his Syria hideout Thursday, the U.S. said — the second time in three years the United States has taken out a leader of the violent group that has been struggling for resurgence with deadly attacks in the region.
President Joe Biden announced the overnight raid by American special operations forces, which U.S. officials called a “significant blow” to the radical militant organization.
The IS group at the height of its power controlled more than 40,000 square miles stretching from Syria to Iraq and ruled over 8 million people. Its attacks in the region included a major assault last month to seize a prison in northeast Syria holding at least 3,000 IS detainees.
The raid targeted Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, who took over as head of the group on Oct. 31, 2019, just days after leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died during a U.S. raid. Al-Qurayshi, unlike his predecessor, was far from a household name, a secretive man who presided over a far diminished version of the group and didn’t appear in public.
People are also reading…
Biden said al-Qurayshi died as al-Baghdadi did, by exploding a bomb that killed himself and members of his family, including women and children, as U.S. forces approached.
US strike framed to spare civilians after mounting criticism
WASHINGTON (AP) — Facing criticism for civilian deaths in U.S. airstrikes, President Joe Biden targeted the leader of the Islamic State group on Thursday in an approach — a ground raid by special forces — that was riskier for American troops but intended to be safer for the innocent.
Dozens of U.S. commandoes landed outside Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi’s Syrian hideout and warned people in nearby homes to stay inside, U.S. officials said. As one of their first moves, they called out to families living inside the same building as al-Qurayshi. By the time the operation ended, the officials said, 10 civilians had been led to safety.
But the U.S. raid still brought the deaths of women and children. Al-Qurayshi’s wife and two children were killed along with the militant leader when he detonated a suicide bomb. A lieutenant of the militant leader and that man’s wife also died along with a child, after the pair fired upon U.S. forces, officials said. The deaths from the high-stakes mission highlight the challenge U.S. forces face in targeting violent militants, while bound by ethics and international laws and treaties to try to avoid killing non-combatants.
Biden, speaking from the White House, said he directed the military to take “every precaution possible to minimize civilian casualties.”
“Knowing that this terrorist had chosen to surround himself with families, including children, we made a choice to pursue a special forces raid at a much greater risk to our own people rather than target him with an airstrike,” he said. Biden described al-Qurayshi’s decision to blow himself up while surrounded by family members as “desperate cowardice.”
US says new intel shows Russia plotting false flag attack
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. accused the Kremlin on Thursday of an elaborate plot to fabricate an attack by Ukrainian forces that Russia could use as a pretext to take military action against its neighbor.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the scheme included production of a graphic propaganda video that would show staged explosions and use corpses and actors depicting grieving mourners.
The U.S. has not provided detailed information backing up the claims.
The plan for a fake attack on Russian territory or Russian-speaking people was described in declassified intelligence shared with Ukrainian officials and European allies in recent days. It was the latest example of the Biden administration divulging intelligence findings as a tactic to attempt to stop Russian disinformation efforts and foil what it says is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s effort to lay the groundwork for military action. If Russia does invade, administration officials say they want to make clear Russia had always sought to create a pretext.
In recent weeks, the White House has said that U.S. intelligence shows Russia has launched a malign social media disinformation campaign against Ukraine and has dispatched operatives trained in explosives to carry out acts of sabotage against Russia’s own proxy forces. Britain has divulged intelligence findings that it says show Russia plotting to install a pro-Russian puppet government in Ukraine.
Virus infections for Olympic athletes, coaches rising faster
BEIJING (AP) — Athletes and team officials are testing positive for COVID-19 at much higher rates than other people arriving in China for the Beijing Olympics, organizers said Tuesday.
Figures released by local organizers showed 11 positive tests for COVID-19 among 379 athletes and officials arriving Monday. They have been taken into isolation hotels to limit the spread of the infection and could miss their events.
The positive test rate of 2.9% for athletes and officials compared to 0.66% for Olympic “stakeholders,” a group which includes workers and media, in the same period. There were 1,059 people in that category.
Over a three-day period from Saturday through Monday, the positivity rate for athletes and officials was 40% higher than other Olympic arrivals.
The rates were confirmed in PCR and other follow-up tests for tens of thousands of people at the Beijing Olympics who will live, work and train in closed-off communities separated from the general public. The Chinese government is pursuing a zero-tolerance public health strategy.
Olympic members unite against Infantino’s World Cup plan
BEIJING (AP) — FIFA’s fading plan for biennial World Cups was labeled a threat from soccer to all other sports by the International Olympic Committee on Thursday.
IOC President Thomas Bach chided FIFA counterpart Gianni Infantino, an IOC member for the past two years, for not being in Beijing to hear the criticism.
“We all would have very much liked to discuss the FIFA proposal for a biennial World Cup together with the FIFA president and IOC member,” Bach told about 100 colleagues at the traditional pre-Olympic meeting, with some there in person and others viewing remotely.
Bach added, in a break from the usual politeness of IOC gatherings, that talking to Infantino directly “is not possible against the expectations because he canceled his visit to Beijing the day before yesterday.”
Infantino was expected to be watching remotely from Cameroon after telling the IOC he would attend the final stages of the African Cup of Nations.
As winter storm moves across US, ice becomes bigger concern
CHICAGO (AP) — About 350,000 homes and businesses lost power across the U.S. on Thursday as freezing rain and snow weighed down tree limbs and encrusted power lines, part of a winter storm that caused a deadly tornado in Alabama, dumped more than a foot of snow in parts of the Midwest and brought rare measurable snowfall and hundreds of power outages to parts of Texas.
Storm conditions also caused headaches for travelers across the country as airlines canceled more than 6,000 flights scheduled for Thursday or Friday in the U.S.
The highest totals of power outages blamed on icy or downed power lines were concentrated in Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas and Ohio, but the path of the storm stretched further from the central U.S. into the South and Northeast on Thursday.
Heavy snow was expected from the southern Rockies to northern New England, while forecasters said heavy ice buildup was likely from Pennsylvania to New England through Friday.
Parts of Ohio, New York and northern New England were expected to see heavy snowfall as the storm moves to the east with 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 centimeters) of snow possible in some places through Friday, Andrew Orrison, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in College Park, Maryland, said early Thursday.
How to prevent early birth? Study explores sugarless gum
Healthy mouth, healthy baby? For years, scientists have been exploring the link between poor oral health and giving birth too early. Now, new research presented Thursday raises the possibility that something very simple and inexpensive might make a difference: chewing sugarless gum.
The improvements seen in the study in the African country of Malawi were modest: The rates of premature birth were slightly lower in the pregnant women who chewed the gum, compared to those who didn’t.
Still, experts welcome the idea of an easy way to attack this huge and costly problem. While gum is cheap, an early birth can lead to a host of health problems in babies and tens of thousands of dollars in medical costs.
“If we could find an intervention as simple as chewing gum to stop preterm births, I would be absolutely elated,” said Dr. Zsakeba Henderson with the March of Dimes, adding that she’s “guardedly optimistic” about the findings.
For many years, studies have shown that gum diseases are tied to premature birth. Scientists believe bacterial infections in the mouth can increase inflammation in the body, which could lead to early birth.
Strained US hospitals seek foreign nurses amid visa windfall
With American hospitals facing a dire shortage of nurses amid a slogging pandemic, many are looking abroad for health care workers.
And it could be just in time.
There’s an unusually high number of green cards available this year for foreign professionals, including nurses, who want to move to the United States — twice as many as just a few years ago. That’s because U.S. consulates shut down during the coronavirus pandemic weren’t issuing visas to relatives of American citizens, and, by law, these unused slots now get transferred to eligible workers.
Amy L. Erlbacher-Anderson, an immigration attorney in Omaha, Nebraska, said she has seen more demand for foreign nurses in two years than the rest of her 18-year career. And this year, she said, it’s more likely they’ll get approved to come, so long as U.S. consular offices can process all the applications.
“We have double the number of visas we’ve had available for decades,” she said. “That is kind of temporarily creating a very open situation.”
CNN exec’s ouster rattles prominent staff at pivotal time
NEW YORK (AP) — The abrupt ouster of CNN chief executive Jeff Zucker because of a workplace relationship has left some prominent employees feeling angry and uncertain about the direction of their network at a pivotal moment.
The company is about to undergo a corporate ownership change, launch a paid streaming service and replace its most popular on-air host at a time of slumping ratings.
It became clear Thursday that Zucker’s exit after nine years as CNN’s leader was anything but voluntary.
Zucker said he was leaving for violating corporate policy for not disclosing the nature of his relationship with his second-in-command, Allison Gollust. But he was reportedly given no choice by WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, who characterized the change as his decision at an emotional meeting with CNN Washington staff members Wednesday night. The AP obtained an audio recording of that meeting.
The nature of that meeting, coupled with the fact that Zucker’s exit became a water-cooler issue — former President Donald Trump has released two statements on it — speaks to his unusual influence as a media executive.
Team event up 1st as Olympic figure skating begins
BEIJING (AP) — The team competition in Olympic figure skating has always been a three-team scramble for the podium.
There’s the Russians, who won gold at the event’s 2014 debut in Sochi and silver in Pyeongchang. There’s the Canadians, who took silver before finding gold four years later. And there’s the Americans, who have taken bronze each time.
There could be a new player in the mix when competition begins Friday in Beijing, though. After back-to-back fifth-place finishes, the Japanese bring their strongest bunch yet to the Olympics, and could knock off the podium a Canadian team that no longer has retired Patrick Chan or ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to pile up the points.
As for the Americans? Perhaps they can finally move up a step or two on the podium.
“It’s important any time you compete,” said Nathan Chen, who performed his short program for the U.S. team in Pyeongchang and finished a lackluster fourth in it. “I’m going to try to do the best I can. I know the rest of us will, too.”
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.